Scandal spurs PSU alumni for trustee run
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A Penn State University alumnus has begun campaigning for membership on the school's board of trustees, vowing reforms for a panel he says showed ineptitude in responding to the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse allegations.
Ryan Bagwell, 32, a web developer from Madison, Wis., and a member of the Class of 2002, is seeking one of three alumni seats up for election this spring. He told a group of graduates in an email last week that he needs 50 nominations by Feb. 25 to be on the general ballot.
His insurgent bid could portend a push for a wider board shake-up at the hands of some disgruntled Penn State alumni and other supporters. Their initial expressions of outrage over the firing of football coach Joe Paterno have broadened lately to more general criticisms of what they say is the board's insularity and failure to actively engage in university business.
"I think people have a hankering for change on the board, and they want change from outside," Mr. Bagwell said Monday.
Steve Garban, board chairman, could not be reached.
"We certainly welcome the interest of our alumni in the board election process and in the university overall," university spokeswoman Lisa Powers said.
Mr. Bagwell's announcement follows one on Dec. 5 by another alumnus, Sam Loewner, from the Class of 2010. He spoke of a need for Penn State to rebuild but said his candidacy is not defined by the scandal.
Mr. Bagwell is a former newspaper reporter. In his letter to alumni, he sought to distinguish himself from most of Penn State's 32 trustees.
"I am not a politician or the CEO of a major company. I am not a prestigious donor, nor am I a member of the so-called 'good 'ol boy's club,"' he wrote. "My plan to restore Penn State's reputation begins with transforming the trustees' oversight role."
Mr. Sandusky, a former assistant football coach at Penn State, faces 52 counts of sexual abuse involving 10 children. Penn State has faced criticism over failure to alert law enforcement to allegations that Mr. Sandusky sexually assaulted a boy in a campus shower in 2002.
Mr. Bagwell said the Penn State community was shaken and then angered as the scandal led to a shake-up involving Mr. Paterno and other university leaders, including the resignation of PSU president Graham Spanier. The hardest part, he said, was trying to fathom "how such horrible acts were allowed to happen on and around our campus" and why those responsible for protecting the victims failed to do so.
He said a lack of leadership contributed to the crisis and that the board displayed a "passive attitude that resulted in a slow, inept reaction."
He pledged to introduce rules encouraging trustees to more actively oversee university business and new ethics rules to minimize conflicts of interests. Ms. Powers said the board already has a conflict of interest policy.
Mr. Bagwell said he would work to make the university a leader in open government that surpasses the demands of the state's Right to Know Law.
First Published December 27, 2011 12:00 am